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I've been reading Swords & Dark Magic. It's a collection of new heroic fantasy stories from a range of writers, mostly well known, mostly for this genre. It was a birthday present for JD & Lucya and I'm really enjoying it, except for one story in particular.

It's starts with Steven Erikson's "Goats of Glory" which is a fun tale of a short encounter in a back-end of nowhere borderlands dump, a bit like Aliens with swords.

Glen Cook's "Tides Elba" continues his Black Company series. It's probably better if you have read some of the others but it has its moments but assumes too much of its readers.

"Blood Sport" by Gene Wolfe is one I didn't really enjoy. It has a folklore/Norse myth feel but didn't work for me.

"The Singing Spear" by James Enge is a Vancean story of magic gone wrong, and drinking. Good fun.

C. J. Cherryh's "A Wizard of Wiscezan" is about an apprentice who is thrust into the limelight. He does a bit too well for my liking, but it has good things in it.

K. J. Parker's "A Rich Full Week" is the story of a healer from a religious order dealing with peasants' problems. The structure is a bit strange but the story is good.

Garth Nix's "A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet" is another Vancean story, almost a farce, and one of my favourites so far. Our hero is a bed-confined letch.

Michael Moorcock's "Red Pearls" is an Elric novella. This just brought the whole thing down for me. It's turgid and 40 years too late. No more, please.

Tim Lebbon's "The Deification of Dal Bamore" didn't do it for me either. I wasn't convinced by the protagonists although the idea is a good one.

Robert Silverberg's "Dark Times at the Midnight Market" is a Majipoorean tale, another one in a Vancean style (if that's not unfair to the Silverberg oeuvre). It's not complicated but it has a certain charm.

"The Undefiled" by Greg Keyes has interesting components but the again the characters are not so interesting. The NPCs (as it were) were good though. It's about a god-possessed adventurer and his enocunters with other religions. It's brutal and slightly nasty.

The remaining tales are "Hew the Tintmaster" by Michael Shae, "In the Stacks" by Scott Lynch, Tanith Lee's "Two Lions, One Witch, and the War-Robe", Caitlin R. Kiernan's "The Sea Troll's Daughter", "Thieves of Daring" by Bill Willingham and "The Fool Jobs" by Joe Abercrombie. I'm working my way through them pretty quickly.

There are longer reviews on Amazon but results vary with tastes. The cover isn't very good.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2010 02:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting the mini-review and contents of the book, mate.

I decided to pick this up based on the review you wrote, especially since I am focused on that style of fantasy these days. Will be picking the book up on my way home from work today. What saddens me is that several of the stories are in authors' most famous worlds/universes, rather than being stand-alone tales. Ah, well.
Oct. 5th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
Lesscock sounds like some unholy amalgam of Michael Moorcock and Doris Lessing - "The Making of the Representative From Ladbroke Grove", maybe?
Oct. 5th, 2010 09:29 pm (UTC)

I've now read Michael Shae's story which is, of course, Vancean to the extreme*, but without ever igniting that spark of wit which Jack effortlessly provides. It's just a bit too tame.

I've know noticed on the back page blurb that is states that this is a Cugel story. He's not the protagonist however.

Edited at 2010-10-06 10:33 am (UTC)
Oct. 6th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
Cherryh and Moorcock? Sound cool.
Oct. 7th, 2010 09:15 am (UTC)
Moorcock! Didn't you read my review?
Oct. 11th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah. But I've allways liked Moorcock. And have often liked things he's done even when everyone else pans it. Not that he hasn't turned out a stinker or two.
Oct. 7th, 2010 08:26 am (UTC)
Sounds good, I would like to read it.
Oct. 7th, 2010 09:14 am (UTC)
You're quite welcome. I've only got one story left now.

"In the Stacks" by Scott Lynch was a wizard school story about a trip into the library. Shades of Ankh-Morpok but not bad overall.

Tanith Lee's "Two Lions, One Witch, and the War-Robe"
again had touches of the Vancian about it and was perhaps less fairy story than her previous stories. The denouement was not entirely satisfactory but she can write. I'd say much the same about Caitlin R. Kiernan's "The Sea Troll's Daughter".

"Thieves of Daring" by Bill Willingham is rather too short and although it has nice touches, doesn't really add to the collection.

But even if not every story is a clear winner, there are still 500 pages of mostly good stuff.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )